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Weak Persuader

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These accusations of sexual harassment against deposed Oxford American Marc Smirnoff seem pretty clear-cut:

The gathering, Marc Smirnoff said, was intended as a morale-boosting retreat for his staff at The Oxford American magazine, a July 4 overnight party at a mountain cabin that would fuel the creative intellect.

But things quickly went awry, beginning at night when Mr. Smirnoff berated young staff members playing drinking games, and continuing the next morning when he exploded in anger at a 19-year-old intern, then insisted that she ride home alone with him, asking her to hold his hand and accompany him to his favorite “make-out spot.”

As described, utterly unacceptable behavior, but we don’t have both sides of the story!

It was there that things got a little out of hand. Mr. Smirnoff said the staff was playing a drinking game, loudly, and ignored his request to stop. (He stopped drinking a decade ago, he said.)

The next morning he berated the female intern in front of the other staff members when she refused to help clean up a mess in the kitchen. Then, after insisting that the intern ride back to Conway with him, he asked her if she wanted to hold hands. She declined, he said, saying she’d rather “hold hands with a dead dog.” Still, he told her he wanted to take her to his favorite make-out spot.

Oh. But this management technique has a powerful justification:

“I understand that I walk a fine line with my joking, my banter,” Mr. Smirnoff said, comparing himself to the bumbling boss played by Ricky Gervais on “The Office.” “I have made bad jokes. My intent with regards to that humor is just as important.”

When you’re trying to rehabilitate your reputation as a manager and are citing David Brent as a role model, I think it’s about time to just cut your losses.

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